The pickle press has a long history in Japan, but for many Westerners it is still an unknown kitchen tool. However that is rapidly changing these days!
Now that the topic of fermentation is enjoying world-wide attention, and everywhere old knowledge is surfacing, pickle presses are increasingly put to use. Not at least because of natural foods expert, chef, and teacher Peter van Berckel’s enthusiasm for the tool.
He wrote the book titled ‘Tsukémono – fast Japanese vegetable fermentation’s’. This book discusses all aspects of this technique, and has more than 50 pickle press recipes. So for the book is only available in the Dutch language. Please inform Peter if you know a publisher who is interested in a English translation!
”Yes, I started pickling again. Cooking became a hobby. I am always looking for simple recipes and tsukémono is just perfect, because the chopping up is not demanding at all. I already owned two glass presses, and with the addition of the Picklestone press I hope to make more dishes simultaneously. I already grabbed your book to get inspired. By now I am already addicted to a pickle a day…”
“Today I received your parcel with your book and the pickle press. A stunning book with much more information than expected. Today I made a shopping list. Tomorrow I hope to get started. Expecting wanting a bigger press soon. Fermented vegetables are just delicious -starting at breakfast. They are just too delicious to resist. I am excited about what this technique will bring.”
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PICKLING USING A PRESS AND TRADITIONAL FERMENTATION
Even North European cultures used fermentation, with sauerkraut being the best know vegetable example. But sauerkraut is not that typically German or Dutch after all, it was discovered in China ages ago…
The western vegetable fermentations using salty, oxygen poor or anaerobic environment, submerged in a brine, take weeks to months.
The process transforms vegetable carbohydrates into lactic acids. We call this lactic acid fermentation, resulting in a refreshing flavour. The pickle press technique is different. It is a quick starting, short fermentation, which does not yet generate a sour taste.
THE PICKLE PRESS TECHNIQUE IS DIFFERENT. IT IS A QUICK STARTING, SHORT FERMENTATION. THESE TSUKÉMONO ARE SOMETIMES CALLED PRESSED SALADS, OR INSTANT PICKLES, OR IN JAPANESE ASAZUKÉ.
– Peter van Berckel
CHOOSE YOUR VEGETABLE
Pickling using a press is like performing magic! Of course, it all starts with your choice of vegetable(s). Grab what you have got lying around, look in your vegetable garden, be inspired by the seasons; the choices are endless.
The pickling duration is determined by the desired texture and crispness. Is it soft and juicy or a firm or tough vegetable? Adjust the cutting technique accordingly. One can influence the time required to pickle and the bite by cutting the vegetable in thick chunks or wafer thin slices, or by using a spiralizer or grater. A pickle is a handy and sustainable way of using leftover vegetables. Fresh is always best of course, but a forgotten, wrinkled bell pepper can still be pickled!
Much used vegetables for pickling in Japan are: Chinese cabbage, onion, daikon, turnip, burdock root, ginger, cucumber and eggplant.
Many other (western) vegetables and fruits are also easily pickled such as: Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, gherkins, bitter gourd, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, celeriac, kohlrabi, mushrooms, bok choy, bell pepper, rhubarb, radishes, beetroot, savoy cabbage, salsify, pointed cabbage, Brussels sprouts, fennel, white chicory, white and red cabbage, carrot, yacon, samphire, firm apples and pears.
Make use of seasonal organic vegetables. These are tastier and have a higher dry matter content. Because they have not been in touch with pesticides, antibiotics, or genetically modified, they contain a higher microbe diversity, which will benefit the fermentation. Younger and fresher vegetables will, compared to older ones, result in a crispier pickle. Wash and dry your vegetables before use. Vegetables at room temperature produce better pickles than refrigerated ones.
USING THE PICKLE-PRES
The pickle press is thé tool to make tsukémono. Traditionally, the Japanese used wooden vessels (kioke) with lids and a board weighed down by rocks. In the 1960’s plastic and glass pickle presses for home use arrived on the market. The essence of the pickle press is that the pressure applied to the salted vegetables accelerates the chemical and physical transformation of the vegetables.
Vegetables mixed with salt or a salty liquid such as shoyu soy sauce are placed in a bowl. The lid is put under pressure, and the press is doing the rest. Ideally one fills the press at least half full, so sufficient pressure can be created during the process. Fill evenly so the lid will not tilt.
The food-grade and BPA-free plastic presses are available in different sizes varying from a half to five liters. The ones with screw Lids have the advantage that they are available in various sizes and that one can determine the amount of pressure one wishes to apply.
The larger sizes are used when cooking for large group and by professional chefs who want to serve tsukémono as a unique side dish in a restaurant, but they are also used as large fermentation barrels. The presses are made of plastic and practical to use and clean.
GLASS PICKLE PRESSES
Another variant is the glass press. Glass has a favourable effect on the quality and the ‘energy’ of foods, the pickle becomes fresher and improves in taste. Glass presses are smaller in size than the plastic models, but certainly have enough capacity to make a family sized pickle. Besides, they are so beautiful that you will no doubt want to use them as a serving dish.
Picklestone is perhaps the most beautiful pickle press int existence! The model builds on an ancient and proven Japanese tradition. Designer Tomonori Tanaka won the Japanese Good Design Award 2018 with this design. Picklestone consists of a glass cylinder with a bamboo lid. It has a wooden press, attached to the weighting stone by a cord.
The stone press is made of Aji-Ishi, a type of high quality granite originating from Kagawa prefecture. It is also referred to as ‘diamond granite’ for its remarkably fine grain, crystalline hardness, and deep luster. It gets its rare speckled pattern from a small amount of black mica.
Watch a video about how to use Picklestone.
A piece of hinoki wood is attached to the stone that rests on top of the pickles. This sustainable cypress wood has a citrus scent and adds a subtle woody flavor to your tsukémono. Hinoki is Japanese for ‘fire tree’. Historically, hinoki is one of the most important types of wood in Japanese (temple) architecture.
PICKLE-PRESS AS TOFU-PRESS
Tofu is always preserved in water. However, moist tofu does not absorb the flavour of herbs and marinades. No taste can come where water is present. That is why it is smart to squeeze moisture out of tofu before marinating it. The pickle press is just perfectly suited for this task.
The most suitable models are:
- The rectangular screw lid model Pickle Press Premium (S) 0.8L for a 250g block of tofu.
- For larger tofu blocks use the Pickle Press Premium (L) 3 liter.
PICKLE-PRES AS FERMENTATION BARREL
Especially the large sized pickle presses are not only used for making tsukémono but also for other fermentations such as sauerkraut and kimchi. These are fermentations that take at least a few days and are often made in larger quantities than tsukémono. In these processes it is essential that the vegetables ferment in a low-oxygen brine. This is easy to do with the screw lid, which also enables one to determine the amount of pressure one wishes to apply.
”I have already reviewed many recipes from Peter's book and have surprised many guests during presentations. The great thing about the pickle press is that it is very user-friendly and has effortlessly become part of many of my presentations due to its modern design. “
“Peter van Berckel is part fo a new generation of fermentation teachers that are emerging world-wide. Peter is a self-taught fermentation researcher, who is driven to share what he has learned. He is heavily influenced by the increadable versatile Japanese fermentation tradition, called tsukémono and makes use of a handy and simple Japanese tool: the pickle press.”
“Many books have already been written about fermentation, but Slow Food member Peter van Berckel’s Tsúkemono is unique. The book is not only easy to read, but also magnificently designed with Japanese simplicity and beautifully illustrated with photos. Get going with the book, the pickle press, vegetables, and seasoning, and a new world will reveal itself to you. I highly recommend the book for anyone who is into healthy, tasty, and natural foods.”
WHY MAKE TSUKÉMONO IN A PICKLE-PRES?
CHRUNCH AND TASTE
Pickling is a culinary enrichment: it creates a concentrated taste and vegetables become enormously crispy. That crunchiness is really unique to this process!
During the preliminary stage of the fermentation process beneficial bacteria grow and multiply and enzymes are created. This supports your digestive and immune systems.
EASE OF USE
One quickly becomes familiar with the simple technique that is very easy to integrate into your daily cooking routine. You place vegetables with some salt in the pickle press under considerable pressure for several hours. This creates a flying start to the fermentation process. Involve your children in this fun preparation process and you will end up with vegetable eaters!
”Your Tsúkemono book is filled wonderful and inspiring recepes, and after purchasing the pickle press I can finally get started. Using a pickle press is a totally new experience for me. I am really excited!”
“Thank you for writing such a beautiful book, with beautiful photos and clear texts. Reading is a joy: simple Japanese tools, the pickle press. “
“I just received your book. I regularly order cookbooks. I often find only one or two recipes interesting enough, but not this time. What a wonderfully inspiring book! I can’t wait for the pickle press to arrive!”
OVER PETER VAN BERCKEL
“Fermentation is in my genes”, says Peter van Berckel, when asked where his passion for fermentation comes from. My forefathers brewed beer and distilled gin using fermentation. The van Berckel family was the owner of ‘The Crowned P’, in Delft since 1700. For 30 years I have been involved with natural foods as a consumer and food professional. I have always been interested in fermentation. I have been using current trendy products such as: sourdough bread, kombucha, kvass, kefir and tempeh, for decades. Products from the Japanese macrobiotic treasure box such as miso, shoyu and tamari, nato, Turin, umeboshi have also been part of my diet, and of course the pickle press.
I was not only interested in consuming these products, but also had the desire to understand their processes, and make them myself. In 2013 I came across a book by Sandor Katz titled ‘Wild Fermentation’. After that everything became a salty whirlwind: studying, experimentation, developing fermentation workshops, and teaching.
My interest in Japanese fermentation lead to the development of a tsukémono workshop. I was hugely attracted to the ease with which one can support one’s health with a very quick and accessible method that simultaneously produced tasty and crispy results. In turn, the workshop led to the writing of my book. I visited Japan where daily practices confirmed my knowledge. The Japanese serve a tsukémono pickle with every traditional meal.
Fermentation is an adventurous culinary journey of discovery. I keep observing positive effects on my health, digestion and vitality.
Fermentation and Natural Foods Expert & Chef | 06-46166770 | email@example.com
Peter is based in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, where you will find his wonderful fermentation laboratory and workshop. Workshops and presentations are also offered at your location on request.